When I opened the editor to add this new post, I noticed it is 18 days since I last wrote something. Appalling behaviour – I WILL do better.
We’ve been on holiday for a week to the very south-west tip of Turkey, hoping to find some cooling west coast breezes. What actually happened was that it was a good deal hotter there than here – over 40 degrees for several consecutive days. That wouldn’t be unusual later in July or during August, but it’s very worrying to have those temperatures as early as June. Thankfully it has now dropped back to the mid 30s, which is a little more manageable.
The other reason for my conspicuous lack of posts is that Robin’s son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter have been staying with us for a couple of weeks, so cooking was limited to the essentials, particularly in view of the hot weather. I did commit the ultimate sin though – I made daughter-in-law Claire’s grandma’s famous meat pie and didn’t record it for you. This was mainly because the making of it reduced me to a dithering sweat ball with mad hair, owing to the ambient temperature in the kitchen, and I couldn’t begin wrestling with a camera as well. I will make another one, I promise.
They had a lovely time and Robin’s granddaughter was fascinated by our cat Annie (Annie is our invented English derivative of the word Anne – pronounced similarly – which is Turkish for ‘mother’). Annie is the mother of four of our cats – two of whom are long deceased. Annie is long-haired, long-suffering and we fancy that she has developed a habit for bingo, sherry and cigarettes in her twilight years, after raising so many children.
We are not sure of her exact age, but we know that she is approaching at least 14 this year – she now has a palsy on one side of her face, which makes her look as though she is curling her lip at everything – Robin thinks it is just where she’s balanced her ciggies all these years. She can be very sweet and was surprisingly patient with little Esmae, who followed her around like a shadow.
She would make a fabulous Bond cat with all that hair – actually, she’d probably make a pretty good Bond villain, come to think of it.
Anyway, back to the kitchen. One of the by-products of Esmae’s stay is a white sliced loaf that we used to make English-style toast for her. It comes in huge packages, so quite a lot of it is left in my freezer.
Our friend and neighbour, Linda, is coming to join us for supper, so I thought I would make some of it into bread and butter pudding, then send the rest of the calories home with her. Cunning, huh?
You won’t be at all surprised to know that I have strong feelings about bread and butter pudding. Its entire reason for being is that you can just add absolute basics to make use of stale bread. I think gussying it up with croissants or brioche is missing the point. Adding jam, marmalade or anything of that ilk is just plain wrong. Obviously, if you happen to have stale brioche or something lying about, then by all means use it, but don’t buy it specially – the result won’t be better and you’ll have spent a lot of extra money just to incorporate extra butter into your pud.
I think it should only have the simplest of dried fruit too – just sultanas, currants, raisins or a mix, otherwise the custard will be overpowered by the fruit. I could just about live with chopped dried apricots, but cranberries? Chocolate chips? No. Non. Nyet. Hayir. (Why doesn’t the Turkish word for ‘no’ start with an ‘N’?)
The custard is a simple affair made from eggs, full fat milk (semi-skimmed is OK if that is what you have) and a bit of sugar. A dash of vanilla is nice, but not essential. I’ve tried using part cream, part milk and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference once it was cooked. The other absolute essential is a very generous grating of nutmeg – in fact, not just one grating, but at every opportunity as you make the layers. If you are a cinnamon fan, you could use that instead – it wouldn’t be traditional, but I concede that it might be quite nice.
This works best if your bread is on the stale side – all the better for soaking up the custard. Oh, and don’t do what I did today. I stupidly cut the bread into triangles before realising I hadn’t buttered it, so was left with quite a lot of very small triangles to butter. Hey ho, that’s middle age for you.
This is a great pudding to knock up if you need something sweet at short notice – and it’s not expensive to make either. Oh, and it has no calories. (One of those statements may not be accurate).
Bread and butter pudding (4 – 5 portions)
4 slices white bread (leave crusts on) – medium or thick sliced is best
Butter, softened, for spreading on the bread
A couple of handfuls of sultanas, raisins, currants or a mix of any of those
Greated nutmeg for sprinkling
Sugar for sprinkling
500ml full fat milk
A splash of vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 175C.
Butter a baking dish (mine was oval, 25 x 17cm at its widest points).
Butter the bread and cut into triangles (or soldiers if you like that idea better – if you have a rectangular dish, you can make a posh herringbone pattern…)
Arrange a third of the bread pieces on the bottom of the dish – for the bottom two layers, I do a kind of jigsaw to make it all fit together fairly well. Scatter over half of the dried fruit, a grating of nutmeg and a sprinkle of sugar.
Repeat with another layer of bread, more fruit, nutmeg and sugar, then arrange the final layer of bread neatly on the top. (Don’t scatter more fruit on the top, it will just burn).
Whisk the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla in a jug, then pour the mixture over the bread.
Grate over some more nutmeg and give it a final light sprinkling of sugar.
Bake for about 50 minutes until it is puffed up and golden brown.
I think this is best served just warm or completely cold (it is delicious chilled the next day, if it lasts that long). If you want to serve it warm, let it stand for 20 minutes or so when it comes out of the oven, or not only will it remove the roof of your mouth, it will taste of absolutely nothing at all.
It does sink a little once it is out of the oven – this is normal and makes it go all the more squidgy.